New Delhi: Irked over the Centre’s dilly-dally attitude adopted towards the blackmoney probe, the Supreme Court on Wednesday not only showed its displeasure but also made clear its intention of wanting a former judge to monitor action of government agencies on the issue. The government, however, opposed the Apex Court’s move.

"We do not visualise the problem going away in months. Look at the dimension of the problem. It is colossal and the biggest problem of the country after independence," a bench of Justices B Sudarshan Reddy and S S Nijjar said while reserving its order on constituting Special Investigation Team (SIT) to deal with the issue.

During the hearing, the Centre vehemently opposed the idea of setting up of SIT or appointment of retired Apex Court judge to monitor the functioning of a 10-member high power committee of top officers from CBI, ED, IB and other departments, to deal with the blackmoney cases.

"It is not in the public interest to appoint the SIT as it would hamper the ongoing investigation in the case. I have objection on the issue. They (government agencies) do not need any interventionist to be fast and speedy in dealing with the problem," Solicitor General Gopal Subramainum said.

The bench, however, pointed out that agencies approach has so far been tardy as nothing substantial has been done so far in such cases.

"Where is the speed in the case? Case was registered against an individual in 2007 but the custodial interrogation was done only in 2011 after the court's intervention. What speed you are talking about. We don't want to make comments on this. Even Letters Rogatory was issued after constant query from the court," the bench observed.

"I find it difficult to understand what is wrong if some eminent retired judge of this court will monitor the work of the committee. It can only enhance efficiency of the team," the bench further said while reserving its order on a plea seeking directions to the government to make public the names of persons who have kept blackmoney in the Liechtenstein Bank.

Subramainum informed the court that the 10-member committee consisting of Revenue Secretary, RBI's Deputy Director, Directors of CBI, Intelligence Bureau (IB), Enforcement Directorate, Chairman of CBDT, Director General of Revenue Intelligence, chief of Narcotics Control, Director of Foreign Intelligence Office (FIO) and Joint Secretary of Foreign Trade has already been appointed.

The court was hearing a petition filed by noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani and some former bureaucrats seeking its direction to the government to bring back blackmoney stashed by Indian nationals in foreign banks, which is said to be to the tune of 1 trillion US dollars.

Besides Jethmalani, five others, including former Punjab DGP KPS Gill and former Secretary General of Lok Sabha Subhash Kashyap who are petitioners, have alleged that the government was not taking action to bring back blackmoney stashed in foreign banks.

NGO People's Political Front and former top cop Julio F Riberio are also among the petitioners.

The bench had earlier favoured setting up of a SIT, saying the issue is "wider" and had asked the Centre to come up with its possible composition.

It had asked the government to make its stand clear on setting up the SIT comprising officers from different departments including the Enforcement Directorate, the CBI and the I-T to look into it.

The court had also expressed displeasure over the government's reluctance in disclosing the names of Indians having blackmoney in foreign banks.

"What is the difficulty in disclosing the information," the bench had asked, when Subramanium told the bench that the government has got the details but did not want to reveal it.

The court's remarks had come after the Government contended that it has got the information pertaining to the bank accounts of Indian citizens in Liechtenstein Bank.

Nations should share tax info
    
Meanwhile, India on Wednesday asked the international community to impress upon non-cooperative jurisdictions to share information about funds stashed in foreign banks.

Addressing the Governors' seminar at the ADB, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said, "The governments of those countries should share tax information through regular instruments."

Pranab said there should not be any differentiation between tax evasion and tax fraud. Also, the flow of information should not be hindered.

“Some countries or jurisdictions differentiate between tax fraud and tax evasion. This difference in opinion assists deliberate concealment of wealth for the purpose of evading tax, something regarded as crime all over the world, and impedes effective exchange of information,” he added.

Concerned over blackmoney, specially stashed abroad, the Indian government has concluded 11 TIEAs and 13 new Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAAs), along with revision of provisions of 10 existing DTAAs in 2010-11.

 

(JPN/Agencies)